|David Morrissey is well know to UK audiences having appeared in a number of highly acclaimed TV dramas in recent years including "Holding On", "State of Play" and "The Deal'. During this interview he was in final post production on 'Passerby' - a miniseries he is directing for the BBC, starring James Nesbitt.|
Were you aware that people still felt so strongly about the series?
It seems such a long time ago, but it's still the thing that people remember me for. Even now. Even when I was just recently directing Jimmy Nesbitt, he brought it up as well. Because I think - you know people of my generation - late 30's - it was something that they really clocked into in a way, it really meant a lot to them.
I noticed browsing around the internet that you got similar comments from John Simm (co-star in State of Play).
Yeah very much - John. And I was up in Liverpool this weekend and again a lot of actors said to me that the reason they started acting or you know how they know me was through One Summer. Obviously it had a big impact on people at the time.
That must be a bit of a thrill knowing that you've influenced people in your own profession in that way.
Yeah - amazing. Obviously I get it in retrospect. Because at the time I wasn't aware of that at all. In Liverpool I remember it being very big, but in a cultish sort of way. A lot of young kids liked it - and again people of my age. It sort of captured the imagination. But never in my wildest dreams did I think that other people in the rest of the country were having that reaction as well. Then I came down to London and to drama school and people in drama school said to me they'd watched it and thought it was fantastic. So I hadn't really understood the impact that it had had. Really it wasn't until - you know over the years it was the one thing that people kept coming back at me and saying 'Oh I remember you when you did that and that was great' and with all the work I've done since - I get letters from people saying how much they've enjoyed that, and that they'd know of me since I was in One Summer. It's so weird you know. Obviously it's had - the website has proved it - it's stuck in people's minds.
How long has it been since you've seen the series?
Well about 20 years. Because it was repeated here just as I left drama school. It was on just before I went to drama school which was 83. And it was repeated after I left drama school which was late 84. They're my two big memories of it really.
I think I said to you that I wrote to Keith Richardson (producer) and he happened to mention to me that you'd asked him about getting a copy of the series to show your kids
Well when Jimmy (James Hazeldine) died it sort of brought it all back to me. I hadn't seen it, and I didn't have a copy of when I'd met Jimmy. Jimmy and I became great friends and whenever we met up, with my family and stuff, it was the thing that we always talked about, and when people asked how do you two know each other we'd always talk about One Summer. When he sadly died I realised I really didn't have a record of it so I wrote to Keith and said I've got children of my own now and Jimmy dying has just started me thinking about things, and I'd love to have a copy if you have it. And he sent me a copy of it which is just fantastic.
But you haven't actually gone back and watched it yet?
And what happened is since I got the tape, I haven't had a moment to watch it.
You do seem to have been incredibly busy over the last couple of years.
I have really. I mean really - from one job to another. I'm going to take Christmas off. I'm going to take quite a few week over Christmas and the New Year. This thing I'm working on at the moment, I hand it in on I think it's the 6th of December. And my kids break up about a week and a half after that. We're going to go away I think. But that will be the first break I've had in a long time.
So did Passerby go well? Are you happy with the results?
Yeah I am. I've locked the picture, and now I'm doing all the music, and all the sound editing. It's all the fiddly bits really but they're the most important things I think, as music particularly is such an important part of film making, so that's what I'm working on at the moment really. But yeah I really enjoyed doing it, it was great.
Because you've started doing more directing - has that had much of an impact on your outlook as an actor?
Yeah very much. I think any actor should have a good knowledge about what everybody does on set, so that you're not somebody who just feels that because you're there it's happening. It's actually happening despite you being there with all this great work behind the camera. And I'm very much more appreciative of that as an actor now. Also I think I can be a help to directors in the sense that if they're under pressure I feel I'm somebody they can come to and say 'listen I'm going to have to put these three scenes together - we're not going to have time to just do one of them this afternoon, we'll have to do all three' and you're able to say ok - I understand you wouldn't have to make that decision if it wasn't being forced on you. So those kind of time constrains I understand more and also I appreciate the fact that as a director you walk on set and you look at your watch and it's just whizzing round - the time just goes so quickly when you're directing. And as an actor you're just hanging around most of the time. I think when I directed for the first time and went back to acting I really appreciated the time I was just able to sit down or have a coffee. Whereas as the director you just never have that, you just have people asking questions all the time.
You were saying you knew Willy Russell before filming One Summer?
How I used to know Willy is (a) because of One Summer. But also I used to work in a bar in Liverpool that was underneath the main theatre in Liverpool - the Everyman Theatre. It was called the Everyman bistro and I used to work there. And all the writers - Willy Russell and Alan Bleadsdale and all the actors from the theatre as well used to come in and have their lunch and their early evening meals and I used to see them all and chat to them. I worked there both before and after I did One Summer.
Even after I'd done One Summer it didn't come out on television for a long time so in that interim period I was working in the Everyman and then when it did come out I'd gone away - I was in Africa, I'd gone to Kenya. It was very weird because I went to Kenya and I was there whilst the first two episodes were on and then I flew into Heathrow and I got onto the train going up to Liverpool and people were looking at me and whispering to each other and I just couldn't believe it, it was unbelievable. Then eventually this guy came up to me and said 'I saw you on the telly the other night, I thought it was great'. Then I got a cab from Lime street station in Liverpool and the driver's like - 'I can't believe you're in my cab'. And I was 18 and I was like God - unreal. I got back to my mum's house and she said her phone hadn't stopped ringing. People just phoning up to congratulate her and stuff so it really did have a massive impact.
So you'd been on your own travelling - just having a holiday..
Yeah - I'd wanted to get away. I'd gone to Africa and I came back and there it was.
When you were saying you'd met Willy Russell even before you'd filmed One Summer, did you know about his misgivings about the series while it was being filmed? Did that only come out afterwards for you?
No it came out during. But I had no inkling that he was unhappy at all until we were up and doing it really. I think the company did and I think the director did but Spencer and I - my recollection is that we didn't know until during the filming somebody said to us Willy's not very happy. And that upset me because I really liked him and thought he was a good guy and I liked his work so it upset me that he wasn't happy with it.
So it must have been particularly upsetting for you because you knew him.
And admired him. The plays in Liverpool which he did that I was a great admirer of. Things like John Paul George Ringo and Bert and all those plays that were just fantastic. So the fact that he wasn't happy with this - I was pretty devastated.
And did you ever have the opportunity to talk to him about that? To get a better understanding.
Well I have a vague memory of having a little chat with him. But it was so nothing to do with me. I decided very quickly that I'd just get on with my job and if it worked it worked and if it didn't it didn't. I mean at that time I had no influence over the writing or anything. So I just decided to get my head down and get on with the job really.
When you were first cast for the show how did that come about?
Well I think they saw everybody in Liverpool. My recollection is having about 8 or 9 auditions. And I used to always go up with Ian Hart (Rabbit), because Ian then and is my best friend. The first time I went up funnily enough I was reading with Paul McGann, and I was reading for Icky and he was reading for Billy. Before we went in he said to me, 'I'm far too old for this part', he said 'this guy is supposed to be 16, I'll just read it with you - it's obvious you're being auditioned'. Which wasn't the case - he was just being generous. And then the next time I got recalled I was reading for Billy and I read for Billy from then on. But anyone I met in Liverpool that had any vague connection with acting or some of them nothing to do with acting. But they'd gone round all the schools, all the youth groups and it went on for ages. I was convinced as I always am that I hadn't got it. Then at one point they took me and Ian up to Yorkshire Television and we went into this studio that had all the sets built and we did three or four scenes and they filmed all the scenes.
And is this you being Billy and him being Icky?
Yeah. And then they phoned up about 3 or 4 days later and they said to me you're playing Billy. And I phoned Ian and he said yeah they've just phoned me up to tell me I'm playing Rabbit. So we didn't know who'd got Icky then. Then somebody told me it was Spencer Leigh and I vaguely knew Spencer through the youth theatre but he wasn't a friend of mine. I didn't know him in that way. And at first I was a bit disappointed because it wasn't Ian but then when I got to know Spencer it was great and when we started reading it was like - oh my God you're perfect for this part. So it's fine you know? And we were all together anyway. It was like a big gang of us. And we all ended up in Bala in North Wales and just went mad really.
What was it like having all those young guys together? When I spoke to Spencer he said David and I had to focus on our roles - it was all pretty serious stuff.
We sort of did actually. But then the thing about Spencer and I is we had a lot of time together on our own, but whenever the lads were around I remember going out with them really. I don't think Spencer came with us, but because Ian and I had known each other since we were about 5 whenever he was around we'd often just go out. I don't think there was much high jinks going on because - a - we were so young, but also we were very aware that what we were doing we had to work hard at and that was instilled in us by Gordon Flemyng who directed it. He was a very gruff Glaswegian guy. He'd done a lot of work and he was very intimidating I thought. I thought he was great but he was an old school director. He was in recovery, he'd been an alcoholic and he was in recovery so he was very down on anybody drinking and stuff. But was very hard but fair I thought. But um - I'd never worked so hard in all my life really, so it wasn't only the fact that he was a disciplinarian but we were all so tired all the time so we never really went out and partied all that much.
So the shoot went for 5 months was it?
Yeah - it was about 5 months. We worked really hard because we were in every scene you know. It was really full on. And we'd never done it before so that discipline one acquires later on of being able to tell a story out of sequence I hadn't really got that then. So the fact that on my first day I was telling the end of episode 4, or in the first week we were doing bits from episode 3 and episode 5. That really threw me for a bit. I really had to concentrate on that.
How much acting had you done before that? I take it that was your first professional role?
It was yeah. I'd done a lot actually. Ian and I belonged to a place called the Everyman Youth Theatre which is attached to the Everyman Theatre. And for a youth theatre it was very well run - very professionally run. We did a lot of plays. We'd go Tuesday nights and Thursday nights, and sometimes Saturday morning and we did shows. We got them on and we did them and we directed our own work. We did improvisations, we did street theatre, we did big musicals, we did social drama. It was run by this amazing guy called Roger Hill who both Ian and I are still in touch with and he was a really weird guy. He was a great inspiration, but he was this punk rocker and at the time I thought he was really old but he was probably about 32. But he had pink hair and leathers. He was a real inspiration to all of us as far as theatre was concerned. So I'd done a lot of acting, but I hadn't done any camera work. But I was obsessed with film and I'd made a few super 8 films. Film was what I watched much more than theatre, and still is actually.
So if One Summer hadn't come along, had you already made the decision that acting was going to be your career?
Yeah - absolutely. That was definitely what I was going to do - be an actor. I didn't know how I was going to do it, but that was what I was going to do. And when One Summer came along it sort of made me think, oh I see this is how I can do it - I can do this job. When I did it everybody said to me (because I wanted to go to drama school) well you've done this now, everyone's going to see it, you've got your equity card, why don't you just be an actor. The only person who didn't say that to me was James Hazeldine, he just kept saying to me, I think you should go to drama school because it will give you a different discipline. And he was absolutely right. Drama school enabled me to play different characters. I think if I hadn't gone to drama school my life would have been full of playing Scouse boys for the rest of my life. I didn't want to do that.
So did you go to RADA directly after One Summer?
No I went about a year after. What happened was it took about a year to come out. So I did One Summer and I just bummed around for a bit in Liverpool. I was in a theatre workshop there and a film making workshop and I did some of that. Then I put on a play in Liverpool and then I went to Africa. When I came back from Africa I went to RADA.
Going back to that first process of getting the role. What were your first impressions on reading the script?
Well it was very interesting because at first we hadn't read the script at all. What happened at first was you went in and had general meetings. You didn't know what it was about. You obviously knew it was about boys in Liverpool because that was what they were looking at. But we had no idea what it was and then rumours kept coming out. Rumours that it was Willy Russell, they were lead parts. So we went in and we just chatted with the director, or at first it was just the casting director. Later on we'd go in and we'd just read pages rather than the whole script. Then as it went on I got the whole script and I thought it was amazing but I couldn't believe that they were considering me for one of the leads. I thought maybe one of the gangs or whatever. Then as it went on I started thinking well if I don't get this part they'll give me one of the other parts. But then after a while I thought I think they're quite serious about me being involved in playing this character. But there were other actors around that I knew that were also up for it. I thought this is going to be really tough. I didn't dare hope. I remember being at my brothers house and the call came through and they said we want you to play Billy and I was like - fantastic. It was just all my dreams come true. And I still didn't believe it until I was on set on the first day.
Were you intimidated or nervous about approaching something that big, or was it just excitement?
I don't remember having any nervousness at all. And I think that was just an arrogance of youth really. If the equivalent part came through now, which has happened to me, a lead in a 5 part drama, then I do get butterflies. But at the time I didn't. Also I didn't because I thought - well I know this guy. I know what he's like, I know what he's going through. So I did a lot of work on him, but I didn't have to go and research him much to be honest. I sort of knew who he was.
How true were those roles and the story to the Liverpool of the time? Could you easily draw from your own experience for that part?
Yeah - not that my life was anything like Billy's. I didn't grow up in that environment. But certainly being intimidated by gangs and bulling and either being in or out of a gang, I experienced that very much. I guess I understood him by proxy really. By the people around me who I saw or I knew. That need for identity I really latched on to and identified with. The sense that here's a guy who even though he's only 15-16, what his life is about is trying to get back to the one single idyllic moment he ever had. That idyllic moment was on this camping trip in Wales. It's very Willy territory - you know it could be very schmaltzy or romantic but actually it has a ring of truth in it. And that displacement thing of taking someone out of the city and putting them in the country, I think he writes that very well. Also he's a lad who's a fighter and gets in fights, but he doesn't want that, he want's to get away from that. I think he can see when he had any clarity in his head that if I stay here - if I stay in this city I'm going to end up in jail or whatever. I've got to do something about this myself.
That's the significant difference between the characters of Billy and Icky - that Billy does have that level of self awareness.
Also he looks after him. That's I think the other thing that Billy was always aware of, that the person he has as his mate is somebody you have to look after but also it's sort of the millstone around his neck. He can't bear to let him go but also he infuriates him when he keeps him around as well. What happens when they meet up with Kidder is that this man sees these two boys can't carry on like this. One of then has a bit more about him that the other and by delving in there Icky gets jealous and upset by it.
I don't know if you noticed when you looked at the website that there are several posts on the guestbook from gay fans of the series, who saw that relationship in a slightly different way, which I thought was interesting, and I think it's a valid reading.
I do too. And also I think the whole thing about Kidder being gay that's why I think if it's happening now you'd have to really address it in a different way. At the time Kidder being gay, us living in his house... and also it has to do with Jimmy's portrayal actually. You never felt that these two boys were under threat from this man at all. I thought that was the way Jimmy had portrayed it, but also to do with the times we lived in. Whereas now if these two guys were in this man's house you'd very quickly start thinking, well what's going on here.
Yes - I think you're right. I think that worked because it really wasn't raised as an issue. I think if you did it now you couldn't avoid making it a bigger issue, simply because it's a bigger issue in society.
You couldn't - you'd have to address it. I don't know what it's like in Australia, but in Britain at the moment the subject of pedophilia is front page news all the time. If you believed the papers you'd feel you lived in this country where our children are at danger just walking to the shops. Which isn't the case, but it's in their interest to build this nation of fear. And I think that's reflected in our drama as well, that we can't really have that innocence because it's been taken away from us really.
One thing that's impressive about the series is there are so many young cast members and pretty much without exception they turn in brilliant performances. Was that just a question of good casting to begin with, or did Gordon with that tough mannerism - was he particularly good at controlling young people?
I think it's a mixture of both. He certainly had our respect.
It sounds a bit like people were scared of him?
Yeah - but not intimidated by him. We certainly didn't want to get on the wrong side of him, but also we didn't want to disappoint him. I really didn't want to let him down. He trusted us enough to cast us and we all knew the enormity of the casting process. We knew how many people had been auditioned so we knew how lucky we were to be there and we really didn't want to let him down. Also not just him but the crew as well. My memory is that it was a really great crew of people who really looked after us and respected us. It was a special project in that way. He was very old school, Gordon. He'd been around. He'd done films with Peter O'Toole and he'd done films in America and sort of lost that life really and was now getting back to it. But he was a romantic as well. But he was a rough Glaswegian guy, so he certainly knew boys from the city and could relate to us in that way. Me and Spencer absolutely adored him, we thought he was a great guy. Subsequently I know his son very well, he's a great actor actually. It was the casting process, but also Gordon being very succinct in his notes and very clever with how he handled us.
I find it a little ironic in a way given the controversy over the casting, that one of the strengths that most people recognise is the chemistry that you can feel between James Hazeldine, Spencer and yourself. Is that something that developed early on?
Well Spencer and I had about a month before Jimmy arrived. We got on really well and hung out together and stuff and of course most of the filming was done in Leeds not in Liverpool so we were away from home. I think we were doing 5 day weeks - we'd get home on the weekend. So we got to know each other very well. And then the first time I met Jimmy was when we went to Wales and he slotted right in. He was just very generous with his time and energy, and as well as just doing the job he sort of took us under his wing and very quickly we went round to his house and had a meal with him and his wife. We met his children. He took us in really. He knew people, and he was in the theatre in Leeds so we went to see a show in Leeds, went backstage and then went for a meal. That was great for us. I mean we'd never done that, we never knew really any proper actors. Jimmy was a dream in the sense he wasn't precious or actory. I wanted to be an actor, here I was being an actor, and then when I met Jimmy I thought it's possible to carry on being an actor and keep your integrity and soul and still be OK you know? And be a proper person. And he was that. That chemistry between us was very real.
Are there any particular moments that come to mind for you between you and James from the series?
Well its all of it together I think for me. What I remember we used to do is finish the days filming, go back to the hotel and have a shower or whatever. Then we'd meet in the foyer and we'd go out and have a meal. I remember Jimmy was the first person who really (because I think Spencer, because he was a bit older than me, had already done things like this) but Jimmy would take me to like really hot curry places, or a Chinese meal. He introduced me to food and he introduced me to chopsticks and things like that. That was always just a big thrill for me. My family didn't really eat out that much. To be doing it every night I thought was the greatest extravagance. But I loved it. And of course he was full of stories and Spencer and I would pump him full of questions about people he'd worked with or how he worked, He was wonderful in that way just telling us stories. I remember us just having a real laugh. Always just killing ourselves laughing. And I remember being slightly bereft when it finished really.
I can imagine - particularly as you say it wasn't just your first major performance, but also a life experience as well.
It was a great opportunity to exercise your craft, and being able to act and meet people and be paid. I mean, we were being paid more money than I ever thought I'd earn in my life. They were paying us next to nothing actually, but I thought it was fantastic! And they gave us expenses as well - I couldn't believe you got paid and also they gave you money to eat and stuff which wasn't your wage! It was ridiculous. And I do remember after the first week looking in my wallet and I had 50 pounds in my wallet or something and I thought, this is madness, this isn't even my wage - this is the money they've given me to live off. So I did feel massively rich. We stayed in some great hotels. They were always bed and breakfast hotels really - but they were really funny, because they were just run by these couple of old ladies. We had great fun, I just remember laughing all the time. Particularly with Jimmy really because he was a really funny guy.
So that friendship between you and Jimmy sounds like it started quite early and continued from there?
It did, because then what happened for me was I went up and down to London and visited him. Then I went away, then I auditioned for RADA. I got in but it didn't start for a while and I went to Africa. When I finally came to London I saw Jimmy all the time because he was in the theatre a lot there, so I wasn't coming to London and looking for complete strangers. In fact the person I lived with when I first came to London was one of those Welsh boys that we beat up - a guy called Peter Doran. He put me up in his house and I stayed a Jimmy's sometimes and then I got my own flat. But I had someone at the end of the phone all the time which was Jimmy.
And in relation to Wales - what was it like in Wales? I read that the production designer Peter Kindred had moved there after the production was over because he fell in love with it.
Wales for us, for me anyway, was where we used to go when we were kids. Like Billy I guess. But we stayed in places that were very touristy and coastal and stuff. But where we filmed was all very small villages in North Wales - Bala and places like that. I guess it was a beautiful summer we were filming in as well. It was just fantastic. And what we were telling in the story is the truth really. Liverpool lads are not particularly welcomed with open arms in Wales. Because of exactly that reason. They are city boys coming to rural towns and there's a clash between people really. And then you've got all the farmer's boys, so there's a bit of tension there that happens. But it is the most beautiful place. I'm not surprised he moved there - because I would move there if I could - it's beautiful.
When you were talking about that culture clash between the Welsh boys and being from Liverpool - Spencer told me an interesting story about you visiting the studios in Leeds, and that you got your backs up, because you felt the security guards there gave you a hard time because you were from Liverpool.
Yeah they did.
Did being from Liverpool cause any stigma, did it hold you back in any way those attitudes?
It never held me back, but those attitudes are very real and still are. I mean Liverpool is a city with a very strong identity. There's a show here called Brookside and it's all about Liverpool lads and they're sort of on their toes and there's quite a bit of pinching stuff and fighting and drinking and stuff like that with a lot of humour as well. They're all called scallies, and they're lads who duck and dive and steal cars, wear shell suits. And there is a bit of a stereotypical Liverpool person. I get it all the time. Even now when I talk to people they say, make sure you check your hubcaps because he's from Liverpool, make sure your radio's still in the car when you leave because he's from Liverpool. It's very real, and when we were up in Leeds of course we were playing two scally lads from Liverpool. I remember the security guard gave us some stick . And I don't respond well - Spencer's much better than I am at things like that, I get really angry at things like that. But that is a very real thing that happened. Again in the story I think that that was what Russell was trying to get to. Here's these two guys, and all they know is the streets they grew up on so when you put them in the middle of Wales they're going to react to things the way they did in Liverpool. The classic scene that people always talk to me about is when they feed those Mars bars to those chicks and the scout master has a go at them for doing it, but actually there's nothing cruel in what they do, because they just don't know that they're doing wrong. But they hear criticism very quickly and it's a defensive mechanism. Even when they're on the train, and the guy's having a go at them. He says to Billy, 'do you put your feet on the furniture at home?', and I say 'Yes', and Icky says 'don't believe him, they haven't got any furniture at their house'. It's just like a way of getting through a situation by using humour.
I'm very impressed that you can remember dialogue from 20 years ago.
I know. Well it's all coming back to me now speaking to you.
Going back a bit, when you were mentioning the Everyman, were there many other people in the cast involved in the Youth theatre? Obviously Ian was.
Yeah - there was a guy called Vic McGuire who was there as well and I think there was one or two other guys
I have a feeling John Shackley who later did the Tripods was?
John Shackley definitely was yeah. I think the other guys - there was a place called Heartland Jacobs which Spencer went to as well. There were a couple of lads from there. There were lots of different theatres and theatre clubs and things and schools and they all got together. But of the Everyman it would be me, Ian, and Vic McGuire. Of course that annoyed all the girls at the youth theatre because there were no parts for them in it.
Do you remember Jane West that played Jo?
I do very vaguely. I mean I don't know what's happened to her at all.
I did track her down - she lives in America - she's a children's book author.
Moved there very shortly after One Summer - I think in 86. I haven't tried to communicate with her - I might write her a letter. This process I'm going through - I never really expected to be going down this road, but having started it's fascinating.
I know, go for it - absolutely and I'm so glad you did by the way - I think you should - and also it's great for me to talk about a period in my life that was so fun really.
Jane - I remember Jane because she came late as well. I remember wondering what she would be like. There was a love scene and I was thinking my God - what's that going to be like, how are we going to do that you know. She walked into the bar. Peter Doran it was who said 'I've just seen the girl that's playing your girlfriend', and I was like - 'what's she like?' And he said 'she's gorgeous'. And I though yeah, yeah. Then she walked in and he went 'that's her'. I went 'don't be daft' and he went 'that's her!' And I was like - Oh my God! Because I'd expected someone - like a schoolgirl. So she walked in and she was blonde, and like a woman really and I was like - Oh my God! Then we went for a walk and I was saying how the hell am I going to do a love scene with this woman I'm so nervous. But again she was fantastic, and we just had to get on with it really.
She was quite a bit older - I don't know what prompted that choice.
No I don't either. I always expected her to be much younger. More like a schoolgirl - like us. Rather than you know - from a different generation.
There was another thing that always troubled me, not that that troubled me, but there was a bit where the Welsh guys break into Jimmy's house, into Kidder's house, and in the script it says they find a photograph of a boy with a rose in his mouth, and I always thought that would be a snapshot or something like from a party. But actually the photograph is this massively staged guy in a toga and like - what's that?
I'm really glad you said that. Because that's been one of my main concerns, quibbles, as well. It just seemed out of character.
I thought that was really weird. I always thought that that would be just like somebody at a party with a rose in their mouth or something. And I know Jimmy felt that as well. I know Jimmy spoke to Gordon about it and said 'I think this is really wrong', and Gordon went 'no - no it's not'. So it was Gordon's sort of blind spot that.
I thought exactly the same thing. I think if they wanted something to be very very obvious which I guess that was, except that in reality it was only up on the screen such a very short period of time.
Yeah - but it gave you such the wrong message about Kidder. It was just wrong I thought. In fact everybody did apart from Gordon (laughs)
And he was determined to keep it.
Oh yeah - woe betide anyone who said he was wrong. Although we all did.
It terms of the script, one of the articles of the time said - I think it might have been quoting from Keith Richardson I'm not sure - it was saying that the finished product bore little resemblance to the original concept. It was explaining why Willy Russell didn't want anything to do with it. Were you aware of that - the script you were working with, did anything significant change as you went through the production?
Um - scripts always change but I don't remember anything massively changing. My memory was we pretty much shot what was written really. I'm sure Willy had problems about that. I think maybe he did want to do some more work on the script or something like that? I don't know. But I always thought his main concern was casting rather than script.
Yes - that's what most articles seem to say. I even read one of them saying that the producers had rejected his suggestion for who should play Kidder. And I'd be very curious to know who that would have been.
Yeah me too actually. My memory is exactly that. Is that he wasn't happy with the choice of Jimmy. But I don't know who else he had in mind. And of course in my paranoia I always thought he wasn't happy with me, but I don't think that's true. At the time in my head I thought that.
A lot of the articles do say he wasn't happy that it wasn't 14 year olds. But do you think that was a bit of a smoke screen, and it was primarily Jimmy he was concerned about?
Maybe.. Maybe he was concerned about all of that then. I mean - then and now he's a writer of great renown and fame and I think it was tough. There was Gordon coming along making decisions and I think the breakdown happened quite quickly really. And maybe there was something in the script as well that he was unhappy about and he though forget it, I'm off.
It sounds like two very strong personalities meeting head to head.
Very much so. And as I get older as well . television in this country anyway is a writers medium, it's not a directors medium at all. It's about the writer. And with Gordon of course he's a director that came from feature film and I think Yorkshire suddenly were in this problem where they thought well we've got this director here, and we've got this writer. They're falling out, which side do we fall on? And they fell on the side of the director. And I think Keith and Gordon had a relationship from way back when. But I think if it was now they'd always fall on the side of the writer.
In terms of script changes. The series certainly gives the impression of being very natural, almost ad-libbed. Clearly that's just the quality of the writing. But I was asking Spencer if there was anything that was ad-libbed, or work-shopped prior to filming. He gave one quite funny example which was from you - as you fall down running through the Welsh mountains and you say 'there's a thistle in my prick'. Which he thought was hysterically funny. I have to admit I didn't remember the line at the time, but it is there.
I don't remember that either. It sounds like me, but I don't remember - he's got a better memory than me. I remember that we always had great fun around the lines when we were rehearsing, but when we came to shoot we always kept straight to the script. And that was to do with the fact that I think Yorkshire were always hoping when they showed it to Willy he would put his name back on it. So that afterwards when everybody had fallen out, I'm sure that Keith and Gordon and everybody were hoping that they could go to Willy and say can you watch it. And their fantasy would be him watching it and saying 'Oh my God that's fantastic, put my name back on it'. So we kept very much to the script is my memory anyway.
One thing Spencer mentioned to me was that he has still got the picture book.
Yeah - I've got that, and it's signed by everybody. And I've got the poster. About two years ago Jimmy did a job at Yorkshire Television and on the wall in a corridor he saw the picture of One Summer - because they had all the productions they did there. And he went to the main guy and said could I have it. And the guy gave it to Jimmy and he gave it to me and I have it on my wall - and it's me and Spencer looking about 3 ½ years of age In the Welsh mountains. We're sitting on the side of a stream, sitting on these rocks. The other thing I've got - this Swedish fan sent me a cover of this Swedish newspaper which is a picture of me and Jane West canoodling. It says Wan Summer or something at the top of it. Which is really weird. I do have quite a few photographs of that time.
The other thing that Spencer said that he did have, but doesn't have anymore which is a bit sad is a recording of the soundtrack that Alan Parker did.
Ah, I had that, but I don't have that anymore.
That's a shame.
Paul Jones. In fact that was the only thing we did put into the script because I play the harmonica, and that wasn't in the script at all. Then there was a thing about him giving me a harmonica and me doing all that. Gordon because of that knew Paul Jones and he got involved and said what I want is a sort of harmonica break. That came from me - because me and Ian played the harmonica and we used to always play it off set. Gordon came to me and said I want to get this into the story. And I said OK great.
OK - look thanks very very much for giving up your evening to me.
No thank you, and I look forward to reading it and speak soon hopefully.
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